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The relationship of malnutrition and anemia to growth,
cognitive development and school performance is well recognized
The critical features relating to the nutritional
status of the Guyanese population are as follows:
1. A significant proportion of children under five
years of age suffer from malnutrition (survey data indicate that
14% were underweight for age; 11% had low height for age and 11%
had a low weight for height (UNICEF, 2000).
2. Persistently high levels of iron-deficiency anaemia affecting
about 48% of young children, 57% of school age children, 41% of
adults and 52% of pregnant women (PAHO/CFNI, 1997).
Economic access to food may be a major cause of
the nutritional problems in the country. The percentage of the population
living below the poverty line up to 1996 was approximately 40%.
Therefore a significant number of persons, especially among the
Amerindians are likely to be vulnerable to insufficient nutrient
intake and hence malnutrition.
A study was done prospectively during two volunteer
medical missions by a Canadian team carried out in February 2003
and 2004. The medical team held clinics in Guyana in a rural village,
Bartica and surrounding area (population 15,900) and in Amazonian
Indian children of the Akawaiu tribe in five villages along the
Upper Mazaruni River
RESULTS: In 2004, 376 children less than 18 years
of age were evaluated. Height and weight data were available for
259 (69%). 30% were underweight, 41% were stunted and 21% were wasted.
These problems were more prevalent in the rural villages. Results
in 2003 were similar. The majority of children did not increase
in weight-for-age between 2003 and 2004
CONCLUSIONS: This survey of growth and anemia documents
a high prevalence of these problems in Guyanese children in a small
village and in Amazonian Indian children. Inadequate weight, but
not stunting was more often observed in children. Further research
is needed to evaluate the effect of genetic vs nutritional factors
on growth in this population. It is important to recognize the prevalence
of these problems to help children in Guyana improve dietary intake
and prevent the consequences of anemia and malnutrition.